Enter the Dragon

…… Los Angeles, California, 1976

For me, the movie starts with a black man

Leaping into an orbit of badges, tiny moons

Catching the sheen of his perfect black afro.

Arc kicks, karate chops, and thirty cops

On their backs. It starts with the swagger,

The cool lean into the leather front seat

Of the black and white he takes off in.

Deep hallelujahs of moviegoers drown

Out the wah wah guitar. Salt & butter

High-fives, Right on, brother! And Daddy

Glowing so bright he can light the screen

All by himself. This is how it goes down.

Friday night and my father drives us

Home from the late show, two heroes

Cadillacking across King Boulevard.

In the car’s dark cab, we jab and clutch,

Jim Kelly and Bruce Lee with popcorn

Breath, and almost miss the lights flashing

In the cracked side mirror. I know what’s

Under the seat, but when the uniforms

Approach from the rear quarter panel,

When the fat one leans so far into my father’s

Window I can smell his long day’s work,

When my father-this John Henry of a man-

Hides his hammer, doesn’t buck, tucks away

His baritone, license and registration shaking as if

Showing a bathroom pass to a grade school

Principal, I learn the difference between cinema

And city, between the moviehouse cheers

Of old men and the silence that gets us home.

-John Murillo

From Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher Books, 2010). Used by permission.

John Murillo is the current Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. A graduate of New York University’s MFA program in creative writing, he has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, the New York Times, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He is a two-time Larry Neal Writers Award winner, a former instructor with DCWritersCorps, and the author of the poetry collection, Up Jump the Boogie.

Murillo appeared on the panel Aqui Estamos: A Sampling of Poetry from the Inaugural Acentos Poetry Festival during Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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